Sunday, April 5, 2009

Consumables

This DF thread made me think about consumables:
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=35533

In the past, we've handled it a few ways. One method is to track everything, with laborious detail. While this can be fun in a resource-management intensive adventure, it is the anti-heroic. It is also a lot of P&P/epic bookkeeping to deal with.

The other method is to handwave it, perhaps with a few initial expenses costs and then an occasional upkeep. In fact, some of the games I've played with have featured The Spikes and Oil Club, a plane-spanning organization that allows members to draw mundane equipment such as spikes, lamp oil, and ammunition for personal use for no fee once either a life time membership fee (say, 500 GP) or a monthly membership fee (~50 GP) are paid. They conveniently open branch offices in many frontier towns and at the entrances to megadungeons. Sure, its a bit silly (and started as a joke), but it basically rationalizes upkeep.

Thus, players can opt to track everything, in which case they'll probably save some dough, or they can just pay another 50 GP (which a mid-level character can basically ignore) to just handwave the whole thing.

The problem is that trying to track everything becomes unrealistic and unfun. So, you end up just handwaving the whole thing, or engaging in a masochistic episode of papers and paychecks for an hour every session while everyone goes back to town to restock on arrows, biscuits, dried bat guano (can't forget our casters, here), and iron spikes for themselves, their henchmen, and their hirelings.

Here's the solution I propose. Reduce the granularity of the system.

Why are we tracking ammunition expenditure at the 1.6 oz level (that's 1 GP)? Its the same problem as tracking ENC at this level. Above the lowest levels (I'd daresay, before the first succesful adventure -- after even one successful dungeon dive, a character can likely afford nigh infinite spikes and oil) its absolutely meaningless and just encourages characters to carry an absurd amount of supplies.

Instead, it seems better to give a chance that an item is depleted. For example, a case of 20 quarrels might be expected to last two-three encounters or so. After all, that's about 10 solid rounds of shooting per encounter! So, in any encounter where a PC uses their crossbow, they roll a D6 at the end of the fight. If it comes up 1-2, the case is expended. If they didn't take many shots, they get a +1 bonus to the roll. Easy.

OPTIONS

If you want to increase granularity at the expense of complexity, you have a few options.
- Use a more precise die. For example, you could use a D20 and assign very exact chances that an item will be expended (Perhaps rolling equal to or under the number of shots you fired on a D20 expends the consumable).
- Use more states than "full" or "out." For example, in the above case, you could say that a result of 1-4 reduces a full quiver to "depleted" and a "depleted" quiver to "empty." This also reduces implausibility and gives players a warning before key supplies are all gone.

You can also expand it to other classes of items that deplete more slowly. Want to impose a cost for wearing heavy armor? Make them roll for depletion after every week or quest. Want to check on social status? Make a check every quest that you don't pay your living expenses. Etc etc. Just vary the time interval of the check and the replacement cost.

This system should work nicely with the quick and dirty enc system I've discussed.

1 comment:

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